For the prime whitetail states, the rut is right around the corner. You have probably been hunting the early season, but the rut will change everything. Movement patterns, feeding, activity periods… they are all bust when it comes to the rut. Those rules no longer apply. It is time to move your tree stands.
For the morning hunt, you’ll want to set up deeper in the timber and away from the green fields. By November, I want to be closer to a bedding area than I was earlier in the season. Camo is always important in the whitetail woods, but it becomes more critical here. Bedding areas typically mean thick foliage. Set up in the adjacent hardwoods.
You’ll still want to hunt the field edges in the evenings, as does will try to grab a bite to eat then. Of course, find a doe during the rut and the bucks will follow. Hopefully, the does that are coming into estrus will frequent the green fields late in the afternoon.
Most important will be your travel route to and from your stand or blind. This will take some preplanning. You’ll want to look for routes where you can walk along the edge of a ravine, sneak through a ditch, or use a creek to transit between your vehicle and tree stand. Stay out of sight and downwind of the bedding area that you’ll be hunting. The deer will return to their bedding areas early in the morning after feeding on the green fields at night.
Look for stand sites near bedding areas that are located close to ridge tops with trails. In the morning, the thermals (wind currents) will carry your scent up and away from the game. In the afternoon, the opposite is true—the thermals will be pulling your scent down the ridge. That’s one reason to ensure you have changed stand sites during the day and moved to the field edge.
Let’s not forget the importance of nutrients during the rut. Acorns will play heavily in a deer’s diet when available. Find a white oak tree that is dropping acorns and you are on money! Ideally, it would be located on or near the top of a ridge the deer cross to get from their feeding area to their bedding area. When they stop for one last snack before bedding down, you’ll be waiting with legal hunting light. This ups your chances at a mature buck too.
After a night on the green field, and before bedding down, a drink may be in order. Most deer will stop for a quick drink before bedding down. Bucks know this and like to scent check the trails crossing water sources. They may do this anytime they are in the area, so stay alert, watch your scent and shoot straight.
What’s your favorite rut strategy? Share it with us in the comment section.
Growing up in Pennsylvanias game-rich Allegany region, Dave Dolbee was introduced to whitetail hunting at a young age. At age 19 he bought his first bow while serving in the U.S. Navy, and began bowhunting after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Dave was a sponsored Pro Staff Shooter for several top archery companies during the 1990s and an Olympic hopeful holding up to 16 archery records at one point. During Daves writing career, he has written for several smaller publications as well as many major content providers such as Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Outdoor Life, Petersens Hunting, Rifle Shooter, Petersens Bowhunting, Bowhunter, Game & Fish magazines, Handguns, F.O.P Fraternal Order of Police, Archery Business, SHOT Business, OutdoorRoadmap.com, TheGearExpert.com and others. Dave is currently a staff writer for Cheaper Than Dirt!
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